Berlin Wall slab makes its way to Philippines

by Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Dec 03 2014 07:48 PM | Updated as of Dec 04 2014 07:49 AM

MANILA - Twenty five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a section of the famous symbol of European divide, meant as a gift to the Philippines, is on its way home.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the wall slab, measuring 3.65 meters by 1.2 meters, is expected to be in Manila by early 2015.

Ms. Margit Gehrcken of the Berlin Senate Chancellery officially turned over to Mardomel Melicor, Charge d’affaires of the Philippine Embassy, the deed of donation at the Gärten der Welt (Gardens of the World).

Berlin celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall last November 9. The 96-mile iconic wall served as a symbol of oppression during the Cold War, splitting families and prevented Berliners from the east from moving to the opposite side.

The Berlin Senate later decided to give as a gift the slab to visiting dignitaries, a remembrance of the importance of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

For the Philippines, the Berlin Senate noted “it was happy that part of the Berlin Wall would stand in Manila as a monument to remember that it was possible to successfully overcome and reunify divisions in Berlin and Europe.”

How did the country manage to get a slab?

According to a story from The Guardian back in November, “the collection stashed away in the botanical gardens’ depot belongs to the city senate: they are gifts, to be handed out at grand state visits. Receiving a slab of wall is a bit of a mixed blessing: you need a crane to load it on to a van, so the pick-up alone costs at least €2,000. Shipping it overseas sets you back another five grand, so sometimes recipients contrive to leave their presents behind.”

The Philippines faced a different scenario.

Former Ambassador Jose Zaide, in a Manila Bulletin article, wrote: “As our last Ambassador to Bonn and the first to Berlin, I visited the Gropius Museum in 1999, with a special feature of monumental events leading to the next millennium. The exhibit included Neil Armstrong´s landing on the moon, Tiananmen Square, etc.”

He said he was distraught that the most significant event in 1986 used by the curator was tennis star’s Steffi Graf’s win at the Wimbledon.

“Somehow, those with short memory forgot that in an archipelago 10,000 miles away, Cory Aquino brought down a strongman with EDSA People Power. Somehow, they forgot what Vaclav Havel remembers: that EDSA People Power was an inspiration to Prague’s Velvet Revolution, which in turn was an inspiration to the Fall of the Berlin Wall. At the Checkpoint Charlie museum, EDSA and Cory Aquino are a small footnote,” he said.

Zaide said he was so “consumed” in rectifying this.

“The Embassy worked quietly with Berlin Protocol to acquire a piece of the Berlin Wall for EDSA. Talks proceeded well and Consul General Joselito Jimeno inspected with the deputy chief of protocol some Berlin Wall artefacts at the former Russian sector,” he said.

He said he and the embassy were able to convince Mayor Klaus Wowereit to donate a slab during the planned visit of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The transfer did not push through, however.

“But the best-laid plans went for naught because of the Twin Towers… The world was upside-down. The Davos meeting was canceled; so were the visits to Berlin and to London. President Gloria Arroyo canceled travel plans and never made it to Germany,” he said in his Manila Bulletin column.

To mark the Philippines’ claim on the slab, however, a famous Filipino graffiti was written: “Bawal…dito.”